Culture festival among Jerash ruins, Jordan

Oringinal article published in SilverKris Magazine (Singapore Airline) November 2013

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The ancient city of Jerash (Gerasa) is one of the largest and best preserved examples of Greco-Roman architecture outside of Italy. This remote province was part of a network of Roman outposts of commerce and farming known as the Decapolis. Jerash came to glory around the first century AD thanks in part to the surrounding fertile hills that have supported flourishing populations for thousands of years.

However, civilization hasn’t disappeared in Jerash. The city comes alive every year during the celebration of The Jerash Festival for Culture and Arts sponsored by Queen Noor since 1981. The magnificently preserved ruins serve as a dramatic backdrop for the thousands of visitors that come to enjoy art and music exhibitions every July. The week-long festivities features local and international artists to celebrate the rich history of cultures in this spectacular location.

Enter the walled city through the imposing Hadrian’s Arch and walk among collapsed columns and buildings along the main thoroughfare which is lined with arts and craft vendors during the festival. The cardo maximus, or main road, still preserves the ruts made by thousands of chariots on the limestone pavement when it was part of the extensive network of Roman roads. The same chariots probably competed in the races held at the hippodrome on the south side of the city where demonstrations were held until recently in true Greco-Roman style.

Take in the scene from the Oval Plaza (Forum). The ancient social and political center is surrounded by 63 segmented columns held only by their perfect balance and weight. From the Forum walk uphill among dilapidated temples, sculpted fountains, and the occasional grazing goat to either of the large amphitheaters in town.

During the festival’s nightly shows the city is sublimely illuminated making the remains of the elaborate architecture seem almost surreal. The variety of acts are enhanced by perfect acoustics, the archeological backdrop and scenic views of old and modern Jerash. The historic city transforms the event into one of the world’s most inspiring cultural festivals.

The site is open year round for tourism and the best time to visit is with the sun low on the horizon when the air is cooler and the city ruins glow with beiges and creams. It only takes a two hour drive north from Amman to be transported thousands of years into the past.